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Monday, January 23, 2017

Flashback: a year ago!

A year ago today I was waking up in Slovakia for the first time.  I was jet-lagged, a little freaked out by the communist-era buildings and the elevators in the buildings, and to top it off the weather was horrible.

View: rain, fog, grey, cold

Today, as I headed to school, I thought what a different day it was.  I'm happily jet-lag-free, have grown quite accustomed to the concrete panelaks and the elevators in the buildings, and best of all have enjoyed way more sun this winter than I expected.

Funny, this looks pretty similar, but it feels very different

A lot can change in a year.  I've been enjoying taking my pictures every morning and hope to look at them all at the end of the month.

I've been saving up language learning stories to share on the blog and today seemed appropriate to share with you the very useful and entertaining way to say that one has a hangover.  Sadly, this is not a phrase I need to use often (er, ever).

Mám opicu. Milan má opicu.

Literal translation: I have a monkey. Milan has a monkey.

Yep.  Go figure.  Of course, I asked my teacher if there's a linguistic way to differentiate if someone indeed has a monkey and she replied that she had never met anyone in Slovakia who had a monkey.  This is a good point, but I enjoyed imagining the misunderstanding between two people who think they know what the other is talking about, but in fact are talking about wildly different things.

Enjoy your day, whatever it is full of.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Resilience Through a Window

I'm going to try something this year.  Every day I'm going to try to take a picture through the same window in my apartment around the same time of day.

Why?

I watched a TED talk a couple of years ago that said that simply looking out of a window can improve your mood.  It does something to your brain and gives you the vision that there is more out there than your current feelings.  It gives you a physical way to look outside of yourself.

In my wrestlings with anxiety and depression, I have learned that being able to have hope that things will change is actually a very good tool.  Oftentimes, when you are in the middle of a depression, or having high anxiety, you really can't imagine that it's ever going away.  You can't fathom that it's going to change.  If you are able to think "I am not always going to feel this way" or "This will not always be this way", this helps in moving through it. [note: I am not trying to offer simplistic answers for depression and anxiety, I'm just sharing what I've learned on my journey and how I understand that it was helpful]

There's something called resilience, and people who have stronger resilience seem to be better able to handle the difficulties of life. Psychology Today states that "Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on."

So the other day I had a moment of inspiration and thought, "Hey, if people took a picture through their window every day for a year, they'd be getting the benefit of looking through the window AND they'd see the physical evidence of change over time.  It can help strengthen resilience!"  Not being a scientist or researcher, it seems like a solid hypothesis to me. :)

Maybe taking a picture every day seems like too much.  Take one once a week.  If you're artistic, you can set up a tripod and make sure it's the exact same frame every time!  If you travel, take a picture where you stay (that's definitely evidence of change!).

Most of the time, when I've felt that my situation or circumstances in my life are undesirable, I tend toward a overwhelmed hopelessness, frustrated that things aren't getting instantly better.  The truth is, despite our instant culture, a lot of things are slow.  And that's why building resilience, consistency and patience will serve us well.

Because life is hard.  And there are a lot of sad, painful and disappointing things.  If I can strengthen my mental and emotional muscles to be able to better weather the difficulties of life and live with hope that change is possible, then I want to do that.

I tried to explain my great idea to my husband in Slovak.  It went something like this "I had a good idea.  Every day you take picture through window (long pause of repeating 'through window' trying to figure out which case it was and what ending I needed on 'window').  I watched film. It helps depression (saying 'depression' with a Slovak accent and hoping it's one of the many words that sound similar in Slovak and English)."

Definitely not as eloquent as I feel I am in English.  Learning Slovak is hard.  Sometimes I have that overwhelmed hopelessness that I'm never going to be able to converse fluently in Slovak.  Hmmm, sounds like I could use some resilience and hope of change.

I think I'll take a picture.